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Genetical genomics to study drought tolerance in Lolium and Festuca forage grasses
Ellen De Keyser1, Jonas Aper1, Joost Baert1 , Dirk Reheul2 and Jan De Riek1
1 ILVO – Plant Sciences Unit – Applied Genetics and Breeding, Melle, Belgium
2 UGent - Faculty of Bioscience engineering, Dept. for Plant Production, Gent, Belgium
In view of the expected climate change, grass breeders are interested in forage grasses performing better under limiting conditions of water. Lolium perenne (Lp) is considered as an optimal species for grassland agriculture as it provides high yields of nutritious forage. However, these species appear to lack tolerance against abiotic stress. Festuca species appear to be more tolerant to prolonged drought periods. Drought tolerance in both grasses will be studied by means of a multidisciplinary approach (a combination of genetics, genomics, transcriptomics and phenomics). Primarily, ± 600 genotypes of Festuca arundinacea Schreb. and Lolium perenne L. selected from the UGent (Festuca) and ILVO (Lolium) breeding gene pool will be screened for drought tolerance and regrowth after a drought period. For this purpose, plants will be grown under a mobile rainout shelter. Most tolerant and susceptible genotypes of each species will be selected for a more profound study at the phenotypic level. RNAseq will provide genes that are differentially expressed when drought is induced. Extreme parents will be crossed and the offspring will both be phenotyped and genotyped. RT-qPCR will then be used to evaluate the effect of induced drought conditions on the expression of candidate genes in the entire population. A genetical genomics approach must allow to point out most interesting (e)QTL for drought tolerance on a genetic map of both grass species.